If you thought Chinese intelligence agencies had more on their minds than the NSW election, you should think again, according to a security analysis that found our key trading partner may seek to disrupt the state’s democratic big day. A report commissioned by the NSW Electoral Commission warned cyber attacks could be waged against iVote, an electronic system that will allow eligible people to vote in the March 28 election using the internet or a phone. Up to 200,000 voters are expected to register. The consultants’ report, parts of which have been labelled “silly”, lumped groups such as al-Qaeda and the governments of China, North Korea and Iran with the home-grown “threat” of anti-coal and refugee activists. It claimed covert groups with a “broad spectrum of capability” may use “offensive actions” to influence the NSW election result, embarrass authorities or gain media attention.
But the NSW Electoral Commission says it has installed safeguards to protect votes from hackers and fraudsters, and the public can rest assured the system is secure.
iVote has previously been used at the 2011 state election and subsequent byelections. Eligible voters include those who are blind or vision-impaired, people with a disability or reading problems, and those who live more than 20km from a polling booth or will be away from NSW on election day.
But a report delivered last year by technology consultants CSC Australia warned pioneering use of the technology in NSW was attracting national and international attention – and not always for the right reasons. The report, illustrated with stock images of gun-toting criminals and men in balaclavas, said China may attempt to influence the electronic voting results “for its national objective to secure global resources”, such as limiting the power of the National Party.